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LXIII. ON JOY.
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Christian joy is not a tumultuous passion or feverish affection, but a calm and composed frame; a holy serenity of soul; a gladsome rest in the faithfulness and grace of Jesus.
It sheds a lustre over the countenance; beams forth at the
eye; and often causes it to be suffused in tears. It creates an indescribable delight in the heart.
St Paul was in this heavenly frame when he said: “I am filled with comfort; I am exceeding joyful in all my
tribulation.” This holy joy does not depend on outward circumstances, for the apostle could say, “ As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing. sesses this inward joy, but the real believer. “ A stranger intermeddleth not with it.” It is the fruit of the Spirit, and flows from a lively faith in the divinity and atonement of Jesus.
So inseparable from Christian joy are right views of the blessed Saviour, that St. John commences his first Epistle, as he did his Gospel, by refuting those two heresies, which, like poisonous weeds, were then springing up. The one propagated by the Gnostics or Docetæ, who denied the real humanity; the other by the Ebionites, who denied the essential divinity of the Redeemer. How conclusive are the declarations of St. John : 66 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life :' What language can more fully describe the real humanity of the Son of God? For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew un. to you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." What a striking attestation to the divinity of Christ ! 66 That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that
ye also may have fellowship with us ; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Je sus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
Thus the apostle clearly and unequivocally states, that Christian communion can only be maintained in its blessedness, and Christian joy possessed in its fulness, by a cordial reception of Jesus Christ, as “ God, manifest in the flesh.”
It were well, if all who profess to believe in Jesus, would examine the ground of their faith, and the source of their joy, by this highly important passage in the word of God. Holy joy is a portion of heaven brought down into the soul, and enables the believer to soar above the troubles which assail him. Like the Alpine traveller, he looks down upon the storm which agitates the vale beneath. Even when compelled to exclaim, "without are fightings, and within are fears,” he rejoice evermore.
Habakkuk was truly happy when, raised above all the changing scenes of life, he thus sang to the harp of prophecy : “ Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
The apostles sang in the prison. The martyrs praised God in the fires. They rejoiced in hope of the glory of God, and were made more than conquerors through him who loved them, and gave himself for them.
This holy joy, this peaceful state of heart, is, nevertheless, liable to be disturbed and ruffled.
Through the remaining corruption of his nature, the believer is often sorely harassed and distressed.
The enemy plies him very closely with his temptations. Thus he finds hourly need for watchfulness and prayer; as well as for deep humiliation and self-abhorrence. If ensnared, through the subtlety of Satan, or by sudden surprisals of temptations, the enemy exults, and his heart is grieved." Yet, what must he do? Through grace, he betakes himself to the blood of sprinkling. He goes mourning to his heavenly Father; acknowledges his sin; pleads the merit of his Saviour ; implores the continued aid and protection of the Holy Spirit; lies low in selfabasement at the foot of the cross, and there receives this gracious word applied powerfully to his soul :
go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee." Light beams once more in his heart; joy once more fills his soul. He hates himself and loves his Saviour ; watches more narrowly over the inward motions of his spirit; distrusts himself; and relies more confidently on the grace of his covenant God.
Thus the enemy of souls is baffled; his growth in humility is promoted ; and God, through his restoring grace, is glorified.
“ Amiction,” says the apostle, “is not joyous, but grievous.". Hence outward troubles may damp the believer's joy, while he looks off from the Saviour to the boisterous wind and waves which rage around him. Peter did so, and began to sink. Paith however clings fast to the Saviour and exults in the storm.
Paul was compelled at times to say: “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in
heart." But whence arose this grief ? It sprang from the deep concern which he felt for his perishing brethren according to the flesh.
Thus many favoured souls who are happy in the love of God, and who rejoice in Jesus with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, can sympathize with David, and
6 Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law." Their personal joy may be in lively exercise, whilst their hearts are greatly grieved for a world which lieth in wickedness. Is not this the characteristic feeling of the children of God?
Christian charity is a compound of active benevolence and tender compassion, flowing from a supreme love to Jesus Christ.
The true believer is therefore the genuine philanthropist. He not only feels for the miseries of others, but labours to remove them by prayer and suitable exertion. His heart can melt at another's woe ; and gladden at another's welfare. Hence he rejoices over one sinner that repenteth.
He feels his own joy increased by each increase to the church of God. He rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. As sin pains him, both when felt in himself and seen in others, so holiness delights him, when, like Barnabas, he beholds its growing influence in those around him. The joy of the Lord is his strength. When faith is in lively exercise, and joy is springing up in his soul, he can brave every danger, and boldly encounter every enemy which may oppose his way to glory.
Such is the happy experience of the believer in Jesus. It is his privilege to rejoice. A God of sovereign love wills the happiness of his people. As nothing but sin can separate the soul from God, or cause him to hide his face from us; so nothing but sin ought really to damp our joy. Woe be to him who can feel joyous in his sins !
The Gospel is good news glad tidings of great joy. Those worldly persons greatly mistake its nature, tendency, and design, who suppose it to be a mere system of restraints; an enemy to innocent enjoyment. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and
all its paths are peace.
The Gospel bids us to be happy. All that it condemns is, an abuse of divine mercies; and that alienation of heart which leads us to seek from the broken cisterns of the world, that happiness which can only be derived from the eternal fountain of uncreated excellence.
The Gospel, whilst it faithfully reveals to us our ruined state as sinners; and our utter unworthiness of the least of God's mercies ; graciously opens to our view the way to unspeakable felicity, through the incarnation and death of the eternal Son of God.
Those who reject the Gospel, and choose the forbidden pleasures of sin, find the fruit of their choice to be bitterness and death, whilst those who cheerfully renounce the world, and yield themselves unto God through Jesus Christ, have a spring of holy joy opened in their souls, which shall flow onward, till it issue into everlasting life.
O! my soul, is this thy experience ? Dost thou feel this inward joy in a crucified Jesus? Art thou leaning on the bosom of thy Saviour; resting on covenant faithfulness and unchanging love ?
Enable me, blessed Lord, with joy to draw water out of the wells of salvation; to come daily unto thee, the fountain of consolation ; who hast said ; “drink, yea, drink abundantly, O! beloved."
When I feel my inward depravity, O! give me grace to see, with the eye of faith, the glorious remedy which thou hast provided. May I lay hold on Jesus Christ, and never let him go, until he bless me. Shine into my heart with the bright beam of thy heavenly grace.
Shed abroad thy love in my soul. . Give me the witness of the Holy Spirit. "Grant that I may taste thy goodness here in the sweet refreshing streams of Gospel joy, till borne with gladsome wing, to the fountain-head in glory, my soul shall be lost in wonder, love, and praise.